#Exclusive | Kardinal Offishall speaks on A.M.T.R.I.M., Nottz and proving he’s the “illest MC, period.” [Interview]
Toronto, ON – Allow Me To Re-Introduce Myself drops this Friday at 4:16 p.m. and marks the first Kardinal Offishall project since 2008’s breakthrough disc Not 4 Sale. That album made him a bonafide international star and spurred several years of touring and unprecedented world wide exposure. After going across the world and back, Kardi was itching for that “raw, disgusting hip-hop” and set out to prove his lyrical skills to anyone who might have thought he went Hollywood.
Despite his mainstream success, he remains grounded in the culture he came up in and knows better than anyone how short hip-hop’s memory is. As fans asked “what have you done for me lately?” Kardinal got in the studio with Nottz, a longtime friend and producer who’s credits include Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, The Game, Notorious B.I.G., Pusha T, Scarface, J Dilla. Originally conceived under the name “Seven” the project would feature all Nottz production with all Kardi vocals, a throwback to the one producer formula used by the likes of Gangstarr, Slum Village, Pete Rock & CL Smooth. But after seven days, their creative energy was too strong and they kept making more music. Soon enough Allow Me To Re-Introduce Myself was born. Kardinal got on the phone with our Central Editor Jonathon “Bizz” Brown to talk about the album, the pressures to stay relevant, his most embarrassing moment and his title as arguably Canada’s best hip-hop performer.
HipHopCanada: How did this project come about?
Kardinal Offishall: Me and Nottz have a lot of albums worth of music together. And there was this one time, I had just been doing a lot of shows around the world. You know, Europe, Asia and its dope but its like sometimes when you do those types of shows you miss the raw raw raw, street cracking hip-hop. So we actually came up with this concept to do an album called Seven and see what we could do in 7 days. We finished the album and it was ridiculous and we were going to come out with this album called Seven but we kept making dope material and kept making dope material.
So we just had a conversation one day and the whole A.M.T.R.I.M. title came about because we’ve both accomplished so much in our careers. There’s so many landmark things I’ve done in my career and I’m about to do and Nottz has produced for everybody from super duper underground cats like MOP to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. We just got to a point where we have to re-introduce ourselves to a lot of young cats just coming up now who are just on the brink of knowing what it is with me and Nottz.We’re super blessed, but with our fans that’ve been riding with us we wanted to do a project that’s dedicated to them. The ones that just like that unadulterated, disgusting hip-hop. And we’ve also got to show these younger cats what real, crazy spitting is.
HipHopCanada: “Mr. Parker” features Shi Wisdom and was HipHopCanada’s Song Of The Day this past week. Where did the inspiration for that song come from?
Kardinal: Basically the inspiration for that song came from one of my boys. He’s a dentist now, he went on to med school. But when he was in high school there was this teacher who said, unfortunately it sounds like a typical sentiment, the teacher said he would never amount to anything and really just shitted on him crazy. And he told me it was that teacher that really fueled him to get into college in the states and go to Howard Dentist School and become a super success in America. And when he came back to the school, the teacher was gassed like “oh I remember you, you were my favorite student,” when she found out how successful he became. And he was like ‘Yo f that. I made it in spite of all the garbage you put me through.”
And its unfortunately coming up in a lot of the hoods we come up in its kind of the view a lot of teachers have or the attitude they have towards us. Instead of encouraging us, they’d rather us drop out of school and add to the statistic that’s out there. So Mr. Parker is two sides of it. Its for the kids that are going through it right now, not even in school but in society in general. For the kids walking down the street and people look at us crazy and think that we’re garbage and we’re only going to amount to a certain type of thing. It goes for those kids living it right now and for the kids who grew up and fought through all the bullshit and actually made something out of themselves. So that’s what the inspiration for Mr. Parker is.
HipHopCanada: Tell me about The Invention of Truth. You did a short film for this song.
Kardinal: The first song we released, it was an introspective song that really revealed who I am as a person. Because me, I like to separate the entertainment from my actual factual life, because my life is far too important. I’m not one of those people, you know some people pimp their lives in order to make money in order to gain fame. They sacrifice their family, their personal life and all that stuff. I’m not that person. Maybe later on things may change but I’m not that person. Invention of truth was that first step for me in terms of having people come into my world and really see where my head is at.
I did a short film for that. It was actually in the Toronto Black Film Festival that happened the other day. It was a great event. They had a screening the other day and it was a sold out event. And it’s also in a couple other film festivals around the world. That was my first short film because I wanted to push the boundaries. Instead of just doing a random rap video, I wanted people to try to expand their mind in terms of how they present the visuals for hip-hop to the world.
HipHopCanada: Kill Shot is a pretty relevant song title given what just happened in Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Tell me about that song.
Kardinal: It’s interesting what happened with Treyvon Marin, its interesting what’s been happening with a lot of gun violence across north America. Like I’m on this tour and a bunch of shows got cancelled because of there was a shooting in these random spots you’d never associate with. It’s a real scenario. Besides the fact Nottz chopped some crazy gun sound effects to make the beat its really just the sentiment that things are getting crazy.
How can I put it? When you grow up in the middle of it, all the stuff that happened on the news it wasn’t foreign for that stuff to be where I lived at or where my people lived at. It wasn’t something I was writing from the outside looking in, from an outside perspective. It’s where I grew up and its what we grew up with. Even if you look at the visuals for kill shot there’s certain codes we grew up with that people aren’t abiding by. That’s really whey things are getting so crazy.
Even if you look at what happened at Eaton Centre the other day, it’s ridiculous but everything that’s in that song Kill Shot speaks to all those events.
Because in hip-hop right now, socially conscious music people look at it like you’re one of ‘those guys.’ Incense burning, dashiki wearing dudes. Before, you could rep where you’re from and rep the realities of life without being a square. With Kill Shot the song is so hard, it’s so crazy but at the same time there’s things you can learn from the song.
HipHopCanada: For someone who has had a long career, it sounds like your still trying to challenge yourself in terms of your subject matter and your fans with what they take from your music.
Kardinal: Here’s always my thing with hip-hop. Often times when we debate whether it’s on HipHopCanada or in the streets or whatever, we often debate on who’s hot right now, this guys wack, this guys this. Or there’s especially nowadays, there becomes the debate of “Oh I like Wiz Khalifa mixtapes but I don’t like the stuff he released as a single, its too commercial” or “I like this type of Drake but when he does this type of thing, I want the rapping Drake.” It sucks for us, for rappers because we’re not allowed to experiment like we want to, or not allowed to grow or or on top of that do what hip-hop has historically done. You can pick any artist out there from Biggie to Jay-z to LL Cool J to The Fugees to Heavy D, not one of them has just been in one lane.
“Every MC that’s out there that’s expanding the growth of hip-hop has to be talented enough to live in different worlds and I think that’s something I’ve been doing my whole career. It’s tough to do because at the end of the day we love hip-hop, we all love the raw energy of it but in order to bring it to the world you have to be able to speak different languages. And I pride myself on being able to fit in any lane.”
That’s why no matter what I’ve done, whether it’s doing a song with Lady Gaga or Vybes Kartel, whether I’m doing a guest appearance with Akon or doing something with Marco Polo, the difference is I’ve always taken pride in killing my verse. I’ve never ABC’d 123’d anything I’ve put out. Things that’ve sold millions around the world, things that have sold hundreds thousands around the world, underground mixtapes, anything, one thing you can say about me and something that I always try to build upon is me the legacy of me being one of the illest MCs out there period.
That’s one of the wickedest things that Akon told me. I remember when we did the Lady Gaga shit that went on to be number 1, the “Just Dance Remix.” He said ‘Yo no matter what you’re on, kill that shit. That’s the whole reason why I fucked with you anyways. Everywhere in the world I went, no matter what I heard you on you were killing that shit. So kill that shit.” And that just stuck with me.
HipHopCanada: Have you ever gone through a creative crisis where being so versatile and adjusting maybe led you to a place where you weren’t sure what you wanted to do with your own music?
Kardinal: Not a crisis, but just the love of it. And I’m sure different MCs have faced it at different times especially when you’re like myself when you built your thing basically from the underground on up. I remember the year I made the most money, I was barely ever home that year we had so many shows. I remember one time we went from Paris to London to Mexico to New York back to Paris within like 48 hours. Like I’m talking crazy crazy stuff. And I remember at the end of the year, my manager was like ‘you made this much money.’ And I was like ‘why do I feel like this?’ I didn’t feel like I got the most out of it. It was a thing where there was a lot of success but it wasn’t necessarily success to where I had the most fun. The day I wake up and its not fun anymore is the day I won’t do it anymore.
I remember that year I had gone on this tour with Wyclef and we barely got paid anything. It was more of a promo run for us, but I had the most fun because when Wyclef, when he’s on the road is one of the most spontaneous, creative, electrifying performers ever. Things like that I enjoy more than rocking a random stadium where the crowds just cheer and your doing it over and over again and it becomes mundane. Its not a complain for me because all of it’s a blessing.
HipHopCanada: I think a lot of people would say your arguably one of the best performer that’s ever come out of this country. I saw you last year at Summer Jam in Toronto. Actually you know what? I saw you in Barrie, this was like 2008 and bro I’ve been to Meth and Red and a couple shows in that exact space and I’ve never heard it as loud as you got it. Real shit.
Kardinal: I’ve been blessed to see KRS, Busta, a lot of live live people come with some crazy shows. I’ve also seen some wack shows. Back in the day in Toronto, you used to do a wack show you’d get bottled. So the shows were really really important back then. People when they come to my show I want them to get an experience. I want people to come away saying “I’ve never seen someone with that much energy. We had mad fun. It was crazy.” That’s my job at the end of the day. That’s the legacy I want to leave.
HipHopCanada: We all saw how embarrassing Cannibus was in his KOTD battle against Dizaster. What is your most embarrassing moment in your career?
Kardinal: For me, it was performing at T Pain’s record release concert in Tallahassee and forgetting my verse on the song. That was pretty wack. That was one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had. Coming out and stuttering. And this was in Tallahassee, like T Pain got the key to the city. This was a record release concert but it was in a stadium. There was like 5,000-10,000 people there.
Sometime last year I did a show, the way they set up the front of the stage there was barely any room to maneuver. You know how I get wild in my shows, I jumped off the stage and when I went to hop back on I definitely tripped over one of the speakers and fell. Fell clean, clean, clean. I was definitely horizontal and I tried to get up quick but the damage was done. Those were definitely the two most embarrassing moments for me. I don’t regret the fall though because I was going hard. But definitely when I forgot my lyrics, it was only like 8 or 12 bars, that was embarrassing.
Written by Jonathon “Bizz” Brown for HipHopCanada